When I first started my business, I registered as an LLC and immediately started looking for clients. I was so eager to make those first few bucks that I didn’t think much about planning for my future success. While it all worked out in the end, I wish I would have spent some time and energy at the beginning establishing my systems and creating a business that afforded me the life I wanted.
Learn from my mistakes and do these three things before starting your web design business (or any creative business, for that matter).
Welcome back to another episode of the Intentional Creative Podcast. Today’s episode is going to be a little bit different because it’s actually a YouTube video. If you didn’t know, I have a YouTube channel as well as this podcast. And I try to create two new videos and two new podcast episodes every month, which I don’t always achieve, but we all know as business owners that somethings you have to let go of and perfection is one of them for me. But anyway, this month I thought I would double dip because this is such a great YouTube video. And the format kind of works as a podcast. And I thought my podcast listeners would really enjoy it. If you do, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. It really helps us get found by other creatives out there looking for awesome new podcast to listen to. So, thanks. And without further ado, let’s go.
I’m Galen from Local Creative Co. And in today’s video, we’re going to be talking all about three things that you absolutely must do when starting a web design business, or really any creative business in general.
But I’m going to be speaking from my personal experience as a web designer since 2013. I graduated college. I worked in corporate marketing for an agency for about a year after college. And then I went out on my own and started a web design and photography business. And I’m still doing a version of that today.
Lots of things have changed along the way. I’ve pivoted a ton. I’m also in the online education space. So, I work with and teach other creatives how to run their own business. Um, but yeah, so I wanted to just kind of talk about three things that I wish I had known when I first started my web design business and three things that I think every new creative business owner should do as they’re getting their business up and running.
I’m not going to talk about the super obvious, basic things. Have a website or have a portfolio, right? Because you’re probably not going to get hired by clients if you don’t have any sort of portfolio, but you can build that up, whether you’re just designing for yourself or coming up with fake clients, or even maybe doing some low-cost work at the beginning to get some work in your portfolio to kick things off.
I’m not going to talk too much about that because I want to know. I’m more into things that, again, I wish I knew or things that a lot of new designers skip in the very early stages of their business.
The first thing that I want to talk about is looking at the income that you want to make. What are your income goals, and then working backwards from that to figure out how you want to structure and format the type of design work that you do? So, when I first started working with clients, I really had no income goals.
I didn’t really know how much money I wanted to make every month. And that was really stressful. And I also realized. Even if I was full of clients at the rate that I was charging and with the style of work that I was doing, I wasn’t ever going to make enough income to really create a sustainable business because I just started charging whatever felt right in the beginning.
But I never really thought about how many times. Feasibly work with per month and then what that would end up making my monthly income. So, I highly recommend looking at the monthly income you want to make. Um, maybe not now, maybe not this month, but maybe in six months to a year. What is that income goal that you want to hit and work backwards and think about how long does each project take?
How many new clients can you take on every single month to hit those goals?
You also want to look at the type of design work that you’re doing. Are you doing full website projects that are going to take up to two months to finish? Are you doing quick turnaround, VIP days? I love talking about VIP days. That’s actually one of the biggest changes I made in my business in the last year or so.
And it has completely changed how I work with clients and really just made it so much more enjoyable for me because I schedule out my client. One day at a time. And then I build in periods of rest between client work. So, I’m not constantly hustling. I’m not constantly receiving emails from clients for work that I have to get done that day.
So, I personally love the VIP model. Um, I like working with one client at a time and having it really into fitting it into structured hours. But maybe you prefer having only one client in month in that case, maybe you need to charge a little bit more. Or structure the format of your services differently to make that work for you to hit the income goals that you have.
The best way to do this is to literally sit down with a piece of paper and a pen or open up an Excel file and write down how many clients you’re getting. Now and if that’s zero that’s totally okay. Maybe you’re just starting from scratch. Write down how many clients you’re getting a month now, what that looks like income wise, how long you’re spending on each project and then where you plan to grow from there.
So, if you want to go from one to three clients a month, one to four clients a month, stick with one client a month, but start to charge more over time, map that out. So, you’ve got a three-month plan, a six-month plan and even a one-year plan for how that, or what that growth trajectory is going to look like.
The next tip I have for you is to invest in a CRM or some sort of client management system. Even if you don’t have a lot of clients right now, it’s really, really important for you to get your systems in place so that as you start to grow, you can scale with ease. CRMs used to be a lot more expensive, but there’s so many great options out there.
I personally use an app called Honeybook. I will put a link in the description to HoneyBook because they have a 50% off coupon if you use my link, but it is an absolutely wonderful tool. And it basically allows you to embed a contact form on your website. So, every new client who figures out or every new potential client who fills out your contact form will be automatically registered in your CRM.
See, all of the client communication that’s been shared in this one app, rather than having to go back in your email inbox and find that email they sent you a week. It also tracks what stage each project. And so, you can see all your new inquiries. You can see all the people you haven’t followed up with yet.
You can see everybody who you’ve sent a proposal to who hasn’t responded yet, and you can see all of your active clients. And this was seriously the biggest game changer for me because it just helped me keep everything organized. I think I subscribed to like a thousand email lists at this point. And even though I do have a separate email for my business, which is another thing I recommend it is still really easy to lose track of client communication and having everything in one place in an app like HoneyBook is just going to save you so much time and make your life so much easier.
HoneyBook also allows you to send invoices and contracts and actually get paid through their app. I know for me personally; I hate sending invoices. It’s one of the really stressful parts or like at least in the early days, it was one of the most stressful parts of running my business and HoneyBook makes it so simple, and I can even send them automatically and get paid automatically.
So, all of a sudden, if I have a contract and there’s a payment schedule, I just have money coming into my bank account. And I don’t even have to send reminders or think about it because HoneyBook takes care of all of that. you want to make sure you have a really good contract. This is even more important in my personal opinion.
And I am not a legal person in any way. So, take by any legal advice with a grain of salt, because again, not illegal professional here at all, but from what I’ve heard from people that I have consulted with having a good contract is even more important in the early stages than registering as an LLC.
There’s tons of great template shops out there for contracts. I can put some. In the description here, for some recommendations that I have get a good contract uploaded or imported into your CRM, like HoneyBook, and just make sure that you are having each and every client sign that contract before you start any work with them so that all the expectations are set in advance.
The third tip I have for any new designer or creative business owner is to start to figure out your niche. Where do you, or how do you plan to niche down in your business? It’s very difficult to say that you serve everyone, and you can do all these different things.
It’s so much easier to get clients, especially in the. If you niche down and you can do that in a few different ways, you can niche down by industry or vertical market. Who do you serve? Right. I only serve photographers for example, or I own. Do wedding photography, or I only create websites for, uh, health practitioners, right?
It’s just completely up to you how you want to niche down. But the goal is to get you to niche down in one way or another. Another way you could do that is you could say, I only serve clients in this local area. Or I only serve clients who have this particular style or who want a specific type of website.
There are so many ways to do this. Look at the type of clients that you think you would enjoy working with. Look at the style, the unique style that you have, and really figure out what’s going to make the most sense for you. And then start to market yourself that way. Now the one caveat here is this tends to stress people out a lot, because they are really concerned about niching down because they’re like, oh, I’m just going to limit myself so much.
And what if my business changes? What if my passions change? And the key here is realizing that the niche that you choose. You’re not locked in. You can change it at any time. You can expand it. You can shift it. You can pivot, right. That’s completely. Okay. And it’s to be expected for any new business owner.
I know I have personally pivoted, um, some pretty major pivots, at least three or four times in my business since I started, um, almost a decade ago. Right. So, I have pivoted a lot and that’s totally okay. My business has grown and shifted a long way. The one thing I would say is whatever business name you choose, unless you plan on changing your name at some point, whatever business name you choose, make sure that it is one that, um, will move with you.
That’s a little bit more flexible. For example, if I’m a web designer that only works with photographers, uh, and I called my business. Photography photo, you know, web design for photographers or photo web design or something like that. Very brand, a very bland name. Right. But if that’s what I called my business, and then all of a sudden, I’m like, well, what if I want to also do, um, what if I also wanted to do websites for other wedding professionals or other creative professionals in general, I would be stuck by my name.
Make sure whatever, whatever name you choose for your business, that you can do a lot of different things under that umbrella in case you ever want to pivot or change going forward. My business name for a little while, I had a side business called photography squares, and it was all about SEO for photographers on Squarespace, which is a website platform.
Very, very niche. I still serve a lot of those people with my existing business, but I ended up having to change the name because I do not just serve photographers anymore. And granted, I did start that as an offshoot from my original business. But it definitely still held me back. It definitely still limited me a little bit.
And so, I ended up changing my name and pivoting and opening up the type of clients that I worked with. So, I could work with more people and I’m so, so glad I did. So, if you can do that from the very beginning niche down and be specific about who you want to serve right now, knowing that can change, but also have a name that is going to be able to pivot and move with you as your business grows and shifts.
As a new business owner, one of the most important things you need to remember is that you’re not always going to see the exact path laid out in front of you. You’re not always going to know where your path is going and what actions you need to take to get there.
Sometimes you’re just going to need to take action blindly and hope that you get to where you want to go. And that’s okay. You just want to keep putting one foot in front of the other, take on one client at a time, try one new marketing platform or plan at a time and stick to it. Really commit to whatever marketing plan you decide to incorporate into your business, stick to it for a little while, see how it goes, really put your full effort into it. And then if you do need to pivot, or maybe you want to add in a new marketing channel or try something new later on that’s okay. But I just really want to see you committing to whatever plan you decide to bring into your business going in.
Giving it your all and seeing where it takes you give it a real chance and then go back, look at the data, figure out where you might need to pivot or change before making any major decisions. So many small business owners try something for a week and they’re like, oh, I didn’t work. I created reels for a week.
It didn’t work. I blogged for a month. It didn’t work, but that’s not how things work in real life. Things take time to build momentum. That’s okay. Your audience will find you; your audience will come as long as you continue to show up consistently online. Just the fact that you’re here watching this video, it tells me that you are committed to running a successful business, growing your business, and really setting yourself up for success. So, give yourself a little pat on the back. Take it easy. Know that this is going to be hard. There is nothing easy about running a business, but the more you do it, the more you practice, the better you’re going to get at it.
And I can’t wait to support you along your journey. Let me know in the comments where you’re at with your business right now. And if you found this video helpful and make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any more tips we put out in the future. Thanks so much. And I’ll see you next time.
Hey, if you’re still listening, it’s podcast, Galen coming back on here after the show. I hope you really enjoyed this episode. And if you did, you obviously can’t leave a comment because you’re not currently watching on YouTube as the video suggested, but why don’t you take a screenshot of the podcast episode you’re listening to in your favorite podcast app? And it tag me in an Instagram story @localcreative.co. I’d love to hear from you.
Tell me what you are dealing with in your business right now. I’d love to help you in any way that I can. And it’s just nice to put a face to some of my listeners. So come say hi on Instagram and I’ll talk to you soon.
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3 Things to Do Before Starting a Web Design Business
1. Determine your income goals.
When I first started my business, I set some random prices for my services and just started looking for clients. A few months in, I found myself overbooked and still not reaching my income goals.
If I could do it all over, I would have started by setting my income goal and then worked backwards to create my pricing structure. Here’s how to do it:
- Decide how much you want to make in a month. Take into account how much you’re saving for taxes and spending in expenses.
- Decide how many clients or projects you want to take on in a month. Maybe you want a full roster, or maybe you only want to work on one project at a time. This will help you avoid overbooking and overworking yourself.
- Set your prices. If you want to take on five clients and make $10,000 per month, you’ll need to price each project at $2000. If you only want one client but want to make $5000 per month, you’ll need to price each project at $5000.
The sooner you go through this process, the less likely you are to regret your prices a few months in.
2. Invest in a CRM.
Even if you only have one client right now, I highly suggest investing in CRM (client relationship manager). These programs make it possible to keep all your client communication in one place.
Honeybook has been a game-changer for my business. With it, I’m able to message all my clients in one place instead of digging through weeks worth of emails. With their automations, I can easily send invoices, contracts, and forms without lifting a finger. Plus, I can get paid directly through the platform!
Trust me, it’s worth the investment to get a CRM before you have tons of clients.
3. Figure out your niche.
It’s hard attracting clients when you’re marketing yourself to everyone. Instead, niche down!
You can niche down in a couple different ways:
- In who you serve. Maybe you only want to design websites for wedding photographers or healthcare pros.
- In what you do. Maybe you want to work for lots of different businesses but only build a certain style of website.
- In both! Maybe you want to design edgy, bold websites for wedding photographers. That’s okay, too!
Whatever you pick, stick to it for a while. Too many business owners try something for a week and give up. Go all in, give it a few months, and then look at your data to determine if and how you should pivot.
Bonus tip: Pick a business name that can grow and evolve with your business. Don’t limit yourself by being too specific.
You’re already on the right track!
Just the fact that you’re doing the research means you’re serious about owning a successful web design company. For more tips and tricks as you grow, check out these episodes of the Local Creative Podcast: